In the pit

Gene Belmonte

Photo by Meredith J. Cooper

When the owners of the downtown Chico Pita Pit decided to sell the business their family had run since 2003, they didn’t have to look far for a buyer. Jay and Scott Dakof, who’d taken over operations from their parents, Pam and Michael, simply turned to their uncle, Gene Belmonte, who was happy to keep it in the family. After the death of Pam, Belmonte’s sister, last August, Jay and Scott decided it was time for a change. Now Belmonte, who has lived in Chico for 50 years and already helped manage the business, runs the place with help from his wife, Karen, who takes care of bookkeeping, hiring and promotions. Three of their four children, ages 18-26, work there as well, giving the place a strong family feel. Belmonte doesn’t expect his kids to stay long-term, but he’s enjoying this time with them as they find their own paths. Check out the Pita Pit’s new menu, which still includes delivery and online ordering options, at 240 Broadway St. every day from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

What’s your favorite part of running the business?

The people. I love meeting the people and talking to the customers—that’s probably the best of it—and the employees, I really enjoy working with people and it’s a fun place to work. That’s sort of what the whole thing behind Pita Pit is—fun and making fun for the customers as well as for the employees. We always encourage them to have a conversation, get to know the customer. I always guarantee that if they try anything new and they don’t like it, I’ll make them something else. I try to make sure, when they leave, they had a good experience.

Will you be doing anything differently?

We actually just started a new menu. We now have what’s called an “artisan menu,” which are chef-inspired flavors. And we still do the custom, as we’ve always done, so for people who’ve come in the past, they can still do it exactly that way. For other people, or even customers who want to try something new, we have all these new flavors—we have pesto, steak fajitas, Baja chicken bacon ranch, and they’re really good. And now we do the bigger [size], which was our original pita, and then we do a smaller. So, for people who want a smaller portion, we have a smaller pita now.

What are your plans for the future?

Really, just to run the business and be more active in the community—you know, with the downtown and the schools—just try to get more involved, that’d be fun. We’ve always been involved with all of our kids with all the schools, so it’ll be pretty decent to keep going in that direction.